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DRIVEN consortium to test Level 4 autonomous fleet in UK in 2019

The DRIVEN consortium—led by artificial intelligence company Oxbotica, which is developing next-gen autonomous vehicles—will test a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles in urban areas and on motorways, culminating in an end-to-end journey from London to Oxford. These vehicles will operate at Level 4 autonomy—with capability of performing all safety-critical driving functions and monitoring roadway conditions for an entire trip, with zero-passenger occupancy.

No connected and autonomous vehicle trial at this level of complexity and integration has yet been attempted. DRIVEN is supported by a £8.6-million (US$11-million) grant awarded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and delivered through Innovate UK.

The consortium’s 30-month project plan, which begins this month, seeks to remove fundamental barriers to real-world commercial deployment of autonomous vehicles. Key challenges the consortium will address include: communication and data sharing between connected vehicles; Connected and Autonomous Vehicles insurance modeling; risk profiling; and the new cybersecurity challenges that this amount of data sharing will bring.

A major part of the consortium’s work will include the use of a fleet of six inter-communicating vehicles equipped with Selenium, Oxbotica’s vehicle manufacturer (OEM) agnostic software. As a platform, Selenium provides any vehicle it is applied to with an awareness of where it is, what surrounds it and, with that knowledge in hand, how it should move to complete a task.

Oxbotica is also providing the Selenium autonomous control system to the GATEway project in Greenwich, London. The Selenium software will drive 8 passenger-carrying shuttle vehicles, which will be used by members of the public in a 2-month demonstration starting mid 2017.

The GATEway Project, led by TRL and funded by government and industry, aims to demonstrate the use of automated vehicles for last-mile mobility, seamlessly connecting existing transport hubs with residential and commercial areas using a zero emission, low noise transport system. Research findings from the project will guide the wider roll out of automated vehicle technology in all forms of surface transport, including cars, trucks and buses.

The focus of the study is not the technology but how it functions alongside people in a natural environment. This first trial will explore people’s pre-conceptions of driverless vehicles and barriers to acceptance through detailed interviews with participants before and after they ride in the shuttle.

Issued January 2014, SAE international’s J3016 provides a common taxonomy and definitions for automated driving. It defines more than a dozen key terms, including those italicized above, and provides full descriptions and examples for each level. Source: SAE International. Click to enlarge.

The DRIVEN project intends to transform how insurance and autonomous vehicles will work together in connected cities. A key challenge will be how to insure autonomous fleets of vehicles with the consortium planning to develop a system that automatically takes into account data from the vehicle and external sources that surround it, for example, traffic control systems.

The project will also address data protection and cyber-security concerns raised by international policymakers and law enforcement agencies around the world by defining common security and privacy policies related to connected and autonomous vehicles.

Besides Oxbotica, other partners involved in the UK project include Oxford Robotics Institute; re/insurer XL Catlin; Nominet; Telefonica O2 UK; TRL; the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) center; Oxfordshire County Council; Transport for London; and Westbourne Communications.

Oxbotica conducts its main field test activities from the UKAEA RACE building, and makes use of the 10 kilometers of roads, junctions, roundabouts (even traffic lights and pedestrian crossings) within the closed site; a perfect test track for these vehicles to test their ability to monitor and react to other vehicles, cyclists and people in realistic circumstances, whatever the weather.

DRIVEN is the first of its kind and brings a host of new questions surrounding the way these vehicles will communicate with each other. We’re moving from the singleton autonomous vehicle, to fleets of autonomous vehicles—and what’s interesting to us at the Oxford Robotics Institute is what data the vehicles share with one another, when, and why.

—Professor Paul Newman, Head of the Oxford Robotics Institute based at the University of Oxford, and one of Oxbotica’s founders


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